Foundation Year End of Year Exhibition 2015

Jan. 26, 2016

Molly graduated from The Foundation Year in July 2015 and has now gone on to study History of Art at Oxford University. Here she recalls the build up to The Foundation Year’s final exhibition and the impact the year has had on her.    

You would think that after a year of crits, lectures and squatting with sketchbooks in London’s galleries, we would be fully prepared for having our own work on display; but it still came as a shock when the end of year exhibition came around. Perhaps it was because during the course we tended to feel that learning was so much more important than making something look impressive, and after every conversation with a tutor we came to the conclusion that there was always so much more still to learn. So by the time our final project came around, I think it's fair to say that everyone was deeply invested in their work but equally a little wary of flying the nest and being seen by the outside world! 

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This final project, the last of three, began in February. Many of us had used the first two terms to experiment; trying things we had not done before, especially with the newfound delights of the print room, darkroom and our own corners of the room to experiment with. Now, with more time, these new insights could be incorporated into our practice. For me the Final Major Project (FMP for short) was a strange one; I wanted to experiment as much as possible at the start, then narrow it down and focus minutely.

An aspect of the FMP that I enjoyed the most was seeing people come into their own. Some returned to a way of working that they were more used to, having experimented a lot at first. Others moved directly on from their previous projects; others had discovered something completely new - collages glued onto metal etching plates and wood offcuts; balloons with monoprinted faces; egg tempera miniatures. After a certain point the regular drawing workshops ceased, leaving us with at least three days a week to wallow in the studios, providing a real glimpse of the ups and downs of full-time life as an artist!

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The practical considerations of hanging the show meant that by a certain point everyone had committed to a type of practice; the differences between sculptors, painters, printmakers and photographers came out, highlighting different people's temperaments and ways of working. The studios started to take on the feel of the work being produced, to the point where upstairs felt like something of a foreign country!

When it came to hanging the show there was more chance than ever to notice how distinctive everyone's work had become.  Several days were given over to deciding exactly where each person's exhibition space would fit best and next to whose artwork. Then there was the question of how to hang or arrange each piece. Again this was different for each artist; some had planned everything, including numbers and placement. For many people, it was a question of choosing two, three or more from a long series of works (and then came the decision as to how to hang... which sometimes involved a degree of craftsmanship not to be sniffed at). Tutorials and final pieces of advice continued up until the last few days, so we were constantly reconsidering what we were showing and how.

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When the show opened therefore, it felt fully our creation, and it was inevitable that the light of day should leave us blinking a little. I realised that the conversations I had become accustomed to having with fellow students or artists all relied on some shared experience of making. 

The chance to invigilate the show allowed me to look around more fully and be moved yet again by the way that, at some point without realising exactly, we had become artists. It also forced me to have conversations about my own work and others', and start to enjoy this new life that art takes on once on display. Whether people were affected by it, had opinions on it or simply looked, something new was happening: the work had become active. For some of my friends who had been unsure about their work, this final exposure brought real praise and recognition, a great boost; for some it brought sales. Some work shone while surrounded by people; some struck unexpectedly when the exhibition was all but deserted.  

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I noticed while wandering around that there was a strong inclination towards fine art throughout the show. Fine Art was indeed the focus of the course, but tutors had always been keen to make us aware of the different creative paths, towards more design-based or academic subjects. I was one of the few not following Fine Art directly into university (I'm studying History of Art), but felt at home in this rather experimental show.  Despite the discipline of studio hours and intense drawing, the main focus had been on finding a direct and effective form of expression - something which I think reflects and is of great credit to the tutors' vision for the course. We felt free to root through any media and 'ism' to deal with our own work, and this was clear in the exhibition.

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After the strange calm of the completed, open exhibition it was a relief that this was not the end: we all headed off to Dumfries House in Scotland for a week of plein air oil painting. There was something very reassuring about returning to painting outside, and specifically in a rather sketchy and unfinished manner. But there was also an underlying sense of confidence that hadn't been there at the beginning of the course. We all knew each other, and each other's work, and had begun to get to know our own. 

You can found out more about The Foundation Year here.